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Commun Dis Intell Q Rep. 2013 Jun 30;37(2):E144-8.

An outbreak of staphylococcal food poisoning in a commercially catered buffet.

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National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance of Vaccine Preventable Diseases (NCIRS), The Children's Hospital at Westmead and the University of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia and National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.


Staphylococcal food poisoning is a common cause of foodborne illness. In Australia, since 2000, approximately 30% of foodborne Staphylococcus aureus outbreaks reported to OzFoodNet have been associated with foods prepared by commercial caterers. We conducted a retrospective cohort analysis of an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness among participants of an elite sporting event during which 22 individuals became ill after eating a commercially catered buffet dinner in June 2012. All recalled eating fried rice which had been intended for lunch service earlier that day and 20 of the 22 reported eating chicken stir-fry. Though no food samples were available for analysis, laboratory analysis conducted on four faecal specimens resulted in S. aureus being cultured from one specimen and S. aureus enterotoxin detected in another. The known epidemiology of staphylococcal food poisoning suggests a food contaminated by an infected food handler which was subject to temperature abuse may have caused the outbreak. As S. aureus foodborne outbreaks are often underreported, this investigation is a valuable contribution to the evidence-base and understanding of foodborne illness due to S. aureus and staphylococcal enterotoxin.

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